NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her roadmap to COVID freedom on Wednesday, while also announcing that some regional areas would be released from lockdown at the weekend.
She explained that the roadmap for when the state reaches the 70 per cent vaccination level will not mean the end of lockdowns and that all of the freedoms that form part of the roadmap will only be available to those who are vaccinated.
“If there is a concentration of disease in a suburb or local government area, or a constant outbreak that wasn’t anticipated, NSW Health can restrict movement and give advice to (enforce restrictions), if it is going to put too much pressure on our hospital system,” Ms Berejiklian explained.
While she did not put a specific date on when the 70 per cent over-16 vaccination target would be achieved, she explained that the freedoms associated with that target would come into effect from the Monday following that benchmark being met.
Once that benchmark is achieved, adults who have had both doses of a COVID vaccine will no longer be subject to stay-at-home orders.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to get vaccinated,” Ms Berejiklian said. “If you have not had both doses of the vaccine by the time we hit the 70 per cent milestone, you will not be able to take advantage of these freedoms.”
Deputy premier John Barilaro said it would not be too long before the state was able to operate under some sort of COVID-normal for those that had received both vaccination shots.
When the 70 per cent benchmark is reached, up to five visitors will be allowed in a home where all adults are vaccinated (not including children 12 and under) and up to 20 people can gather in outdoor settings.
“Our roadmap outlines the freedoms that twice vaccinated people will enjoy once we reach 70 per cent double dose, which means a meal with loved ones or a drink with friends is just around the corner,” Mr Barilaro said.
The plan also includes a full list of the hospitality venues that will be able to reopen subject to density limits, while funerals and weddings will be able to go ahead with up to 50 guests.
Mr Barilaro also announced that many regional areas would come out of lockdown on Saturday.
“Vast amounts of the regions will open – the mid-north coast, the north coast, north-west, Albury, to Riverina and Murrumbidgee areas,” Mr Barilaro said.
“For the areas coming out of lockdown, you are not coming back to a pre-lockdown environment. There will be capacity limits for our hotels, cafes and restaurants, including the four-square metre rule, mask wearing, social distancing.”
The federal government, and health minister Greg Hunt, in particular, have also come under pressure after the release of emails showing Pfizer was keen to sign a deal with Australia in June last year.
The Labor Party released the Pfizer emails that it obtained from a Freedom of Information request, which revealed a distinct lack of urgency from the government in trying to secure the vaccines.
The emails showed that Pfizer first approached the government to offer vaccines in June 2020 and that it took more than a month for Mr Hunt to meet with the pharmaceutical giant, and a further three months before it had signed a deal.
“These papers confirm that [Prime Minister] Scott Morrison simply didn’t take Pfizer seriously enough when he should have, while every other developed country on the face of the planet was busy securing early supplies of Pfizer vaccines for their people,” Labor’s shadow health minister, Mark Butler, said on Wednesday.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese mocked the Prime Minister for saying ‘we were at the front of the queue’ last year, when in reality the exact opposite was true.
“They (the government) were responsible for the supply of vaccines and the truth is, we have been last in the developed world when it comes to making sure that our vaccination rates were at a point whereby we weren’t suffering from the lockdowns that Australians are currently enduring,” Mr Albanese said.
“What these emails show is that this is Scott Morrison’s lockdown. It is a direct consequence of a failure to secure supply and that would be bad enough, except for the fact that here you have in black and white, companies offering supply and the government ignoring those offers.”
Mr Hunt denied Labor’s claims and said the government was in constant contact with Pfizer, outside of the emails released under Labor’s FOI.
While the news from NSW provided some signs of optimism, the news was not quite as good elsewhere, with Victoria recording 324 new cases and WA Premier Mark McGowan highlighting that his border could stay closed until April 2022.
Mr McGowan told The West Australian that he may not permanently open the border to his state for another seven months.
“I can’t put a date on [reopening the border] because it’ll be above 80 per cent [vaccination]. We’ve got to get above 80 per cent,” Mr McGowan said.
“Tasmania is talking about 90 per cent – that’s ambitious – but somewhere above 80 per cent we’ll try and set the date.
“I don’t know whether it’ll be February, March or April, I suspect it will be one of those months.”
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